Top picks: A video by Croatian cellists, Michelle Obama's new book, and more

Singer Melody Gardot embraces multiculturalism, noir writer Philip Kerr pens another winner with 'Prague Fatale,' and more top picks.

Charles Dharapak/AP
A copy of first lady Michelle Obama's new book about the White House Kitchen Garden is seen on a table on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 5.
Courtesy of Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera/PBS
Courtesy of MBC PR

Raising the rafters

Tune up your passion for opera. "Great Performances at the Met" features Verdi's "Ernani," based on the Victor Hugo play. It features three men – two nobles, one a bandit, who try to outmaneuver one another to win the love of the beautiful Elvira. It stars soprano Angela Meade and is conducted by Marco Armiliato in a Pier Luigi Samaratani production. It airs Sunday, June 17, on PBS at 12 p.m.

Cellist rock stars

Croatian cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, also known as 2Cellos, have released another YouTube video. This time it's a unique rendition of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" (http://bit.ly/2cellos-hurt). 2Cellos became a viral hit last year after their video of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" caught the attention of Sony Masterworks and pop legend Elton John invited them to join him on tour.

Jazz Whisperer

No one would ever guess where singer Melody Gardot is from by listening to her wondrous new album "The Absence." The sultry, breathy voice should be a clue. Is that bossa nova we hear? She must be Portuguese! No? What about that accent and musette vibe? Not French? Ooh, island rhythms! Bahamian? Give up? OK, she's from New Jersey, but you get the point. "The Absence" is a delectable buffet of world music styles, sung whisper-soft and played with gentle rhythms and impeccable taste. Treat yourself.

Gunther goes to Prague

Few know noir like Philip Kerr, whose Hitler-era Berlin detective Bernie Gunther suffers the Nazis with open disdain and horror in Prague Fatale (Putnam, 401 pp.). Bernie's latest outing takes him to Prague at the behest of the brutal German intelligence chief Reinhard Heydrich. Fearing assassination, the chief turns to Bernie to ferret out the plotters amid a gathering of generals and other party operatives at a nearby castle. Is there a questionable damsel in distress? Why, yes. And snappy dialogue, to boot.

How they talked back then

Would a real lord of "Downton Abbey" ever say "novelty value," "board games," or even "later today"? Prochronism.com says, "very unlikely." This language-tracking blog uses software to discover anachronisms sprinkled throughout current period dramas, such as "Mad Men," by comparing scripts with published writings from the same era. Written in a clear, casual style, Prochronism is a fascinating study in language evolution over time.

sprouts from the white house

Many first ladies have adopted a cause; Michelle Obama has become an activist for eating well and exercising. In American Grown (Crown, 271 pp.), Ms. Obama shares history, gardening tips, and recipes from her groundbreaking White House Kitchen Garden and takes readers on a tour of urban community gardens across the country. It's also available as a Random House e-book.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.